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Posts Tagged ‘#Choosing a palette’

Afghani Girl, oil painting by Mary Chamie

A young Afghani girl, perhaps 10 years old, tries to see the group of foreigners who are traveling through her village. The walking paths between the rural homes are small which does not allow her to get close enough to see what is happening. Other curious onlookers, who also want to see, crowd around the team leaving the young girl on the periphery.

I was leading a United Nations team of international demographers and statisticians, visiting Afghanistan on a potential census assessment, when the frustrated and curious little girl caught my eye.

I noticed her as we were walking a very narrow path when she ran through a back alley and moments later appeared on the roof of a low building next to us. As our team moved forward to visit homes, she kept showing up on the next straw roof. I saw that she was jumping from roof to roof in order to keep up with us. The distance between homes was not far, but she was still brave to be doing so. I was amused by her persistence and quickly photographed her while she knelt down on the roof to watch us. She gave me a shy, satisfied smile, knowing that from her position she could see everything.

Here I am with Kabul, Afghanistan in the background. Photo from census mission, 2003

Since then, I have wondered many times what has happened to her. It was 2003 and she must have been about 10 years old. Now, if she has survived, she is close to 30. Time has marched on, but things are still not easy for the people of Afghanistan. I often wonder, where is she now and how has she fared? Women have recently been ordered by the Taliban, the current government, to cover their faces once again. She is likely wearing the burqa, or bright blue robe that is worn over a woman’s face and body when she is outside of the home, or in the presence of strangers.

When I paint such memories, I am not sure whether to call them paintings, or portraits, or illustrated short stories. But whatever they are, they are often about children whom I care about and wish that I had a better way to keep track of. These children, like the clouds that float by after a heavy rain, or like quick creek waters in the spring that noisily rush by, come and go so quickly, yet they leave lasting effects on the mind. Painting this Afghani girl portrait brings her back to life. I see her wonderful smile again. I remember the palette of her life colors.

Children at Work

Yes, there is artistic beauty in the faces of these rural Afghani children, in their soft beige clothing, adding interest to the modest brown environments in which they live, the mud huts, the clay homes, the straw roofs. The sky above shoots light streams through the nearby foothills of the mountains adding reflective color which further contributes interest to the even-toned homes and softness of people’s clothing and faces, especially at sunrise and sunset.

Below is a combination of photos taken during that 2003 United Nations mission showing the palette that I chose for my painting of this Afghani girl. It is a palette largely of soft browns composed from earth reds and marine blues, with the added bright blues of a woman’s robe.

Palette chosen for this painting

So, here she is, my little girl, this high achiever, who was curious, interested and ready to learn, and certainly very motivated to see what was going on in her unusually disrupted rural village by these teams of foreigners.

I exaggerated the color of the sky to juxtapose it more seriously against the girl’s soft earth reds and browns by mixing marine blue and bright cobalt, to highlight the feeling that one has when one sees the enormous contrast between the color of the sky above and the foothills, the mudded homes and the brown-toned clothing of many people walking the streets.

In this particular painting, I use this improbable blue color to suggest her possible future as a woman tucked under a blue robe, face covered, rather than as she is seen in the portrait, young and free and covered by the bright blue sky.

Photo from United Nations census mission, 2003

For the first part of this blog on painting some of the children I have seen, go to https://marysgardens.blog/2021/05/25/painting-children-on-the-edge/

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